As we reported recently, a study published by scientists from the University of Copenhagen linked the common skin condition rosacea with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The story prompted a fascinating conversation about the degenerative disorder, which is characterized by the breakdown of neural connections within the brain.
The study drew on data collected by the Danish health registry system to determine the link between the skin condition and degenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. The data spanned the entire Danish population, which includes roughly 5.6 million men and women. Roughly 82,000 people reportedly suffered from rosacea.
Scientists discovered that people suffering from rosacea were seven percent more likely to develop dementia in any form, and faced a 25 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than the general Danish population. Women faced a higher risk than men – women suffering from rosacea had a 28 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as opposed to a 16 percent higher risk for men with the disease.
The researchers believe that the risk is due to increased expression of certain proteins, including matrix metalloproteinases and antimicrobial peptides. These proteins are common factors in both rosacea and degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, though the correlation does not prove causation in this case.
While rosacea and dementia appear to have a connection, there are a number of other important risk factors that could help determine a person’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another degenerative disorder.
Among the most important risk factors is age – according to the Alzheimer’s Association, people over the age of 65 face the highest risk for developing the disease. Another important risk factor is family history. People with parents or grandparents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease face a higher risk of developing it themselves.
Scientists have identified a number of genes that can influence a person’s likelihood for developing the disease, though their understanding of the exact mechanisms is limited at best. Head trauma and cardiovascular health have also been shown to influence Alzheimer’s risk.
A press release describing the details of the recent study can be found here.